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Social Security

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Q: Are Social Security claiming ages different for widows or divorcees?

A:  Widows and divorcees have the same full retirement age (FRA) as everyone else.  However, widows (or surviving divorced spouses) can claim survivor benefits as early as age 60. Divorcees can claim benefits at age 62 even if the ex-spouse (age 62 or older) has not filed yet for benefits. Note: you must have been divorced for at least two years prior to filing for spousal benefits on an ex-spouse’s record. There is a reduction in benefits for survivors and divorced spouses for claiming earlier than their full retirement age.

Q: Can I pay back Social Security benefits I collected between ages 62-70 and then get a higher payment as if I had never collected?

A:  You can only do this within 12 months of filing for benefits. You used to be able to do so anytime prior to age 70. Lots of financial advisors talked about this possibility, but few people actually did it. In any case, this option was eliminated in 2010.

Q: How much are Social Security retirement benefits increased if I defer past my full retirement age?

A:  You accrue “Delayed Retirement Credits,” which increase your benefits at a rate of 2/3rds of 1% for every month (8% per year, simple interest, not compounded) you wait beyond your full retirement age. Your benefits can increase by 32% if your full retirement age is 66 and you delay collecting until age 70.

Age to receive benefits

Q: How much are Social Security spousal benefits reduced for claiming early?

A:  Claiming  your own Social Security benefit at age 62 reduces your monthly benefit by 25%. However, claiming spousal benefits (at age 62) results in a 30% reduction.  This equates to approximately .625% for each month prior to your full retirement age. However the reduction is not even.  There is a .694% reduction for each of the 36 months prior to your full retirement age, and a .416% reduction for months that are more than 36 months before your full retirement age.

Q: If I get married, am I immediately entitled to Social Security spousal benefits?

A:  You must be married for one year before you are entitled to spousal benefits.

Q: What happens to Social Security spousal benefits in the case of divorce?

A:  If you were married for 10 years and are not currently remarried, you can claim benefits on your prior spouse’s record. In this day and age, it is not uncommon for two or three people to be claiming spousal benefits on one person’s work record.

Q: What if my spouse died prior to collecting Social Security benefits?

A:  You can collect Social Security Survivor benefits once you are at least 60 years old, or younger in the case of accidental death or if you are caring for a child under the age of 16.  There is a reduction in benefits if you choose to collect survivor benefits prior to your full retirement age.  See the reduction amount HERE. You can also switch to your own benefit at anytime between age 62 and 70 if your own retirement benefit is higher.  A survivor must have been married for nine months prior to their spouse’s death the be entitled to survivor benefits.

Q: What is my Full Retirement Age for Social Security?

A: The table below shows your Full Retirement Age (FRA) based on when you were born:

Birth Year Full Retirement Age
1943-1954: 66
1955: 66 and 2 months
1956: 66 and 4 months
1957: 66 and 6 months
1958: 66 and 8 months
1959: 66 and 10 months
1960 & later: 67

Q: Can I collect a Social Security spousal benefit if my spouse is not yet collecting?

A: Unfortunately, this is no longer possible. The worker must reach Full Retirement Age and file for benefits in order for his or her spouse to collect spousal benefits. This was not always the case.  However, the file-and-suspend strategy was eliminated at the end of 2015. Lets look at an example:  A husband can still delay collecting benefits until age 70, with the corresponding increase, but his wife would not be able to collect a spousal benefit (on his record) until he actually starts collecting. The wife in our example could start collecting a benefit on her own work record in the meantime and switch to the spousal benefit in the future (assuming it’s higher) once her husband starts collecting.  Read: Social Security Eliminates Two Popular Spousal Options.

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